18 April 2008

Donors kebabbed

I'm coming to this late - this has been a week where I've had time or a network connection but not both - and ASwaS and Malc have got here already (for a contrasting view, try Jeff).

Nevertheless, let me make some points on the rules preventing gay men from giving blood.

I have Type O blood, which if I can remember my biology classes correctly (admittedly, I remember very little from Biology except hiding at the back of the room and looking away on the day the teacher dissected the rat), is the Universal Donor. I practice safe sex (on the rare occasions that the other party hasn't run away screaming before items of clothing have been removed, that is) and I am free of all the major STIs. In short, my blood is useful, particularly when Scotland alone requires 1,000 donations of blood per day to meet the needs of patients - that factoid comes from the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service website.

However, the SNBTS, which needs 1,000 donations, does not need my clean, Type O blood to be one of them. Why?

The website lists those circumstances in which you cannot give blood. Among them is this delightful line: "If your lifestyle puts you at risk of HIV or hepatitis".

Don't you just love that circumlocution? And it's wrong. As a part of my personal "lifestyle" I take every step to avoid the risk of transmission. But by "lifestyle" they mean "sexual orientation" and you'd think that an arm of the health service would know better than to dismiss HIV as a "gay" disease. It's not. Practicising homosexuality is not, in and of itself, a passport to HIV. But practicising unsafe sex can be. And that is true regardless of whether it's being practised between two men or a man and a woman. Nevertheless, the rules suggest an inherent presumption on the part of the SNBTS that gay and bisexual men are vessels of infection, while women and heterosexual men are not.

And the most galling part is that the donations are actually screened anyway, so the actual vessels of infection are not used. But still the Service is worried not that the gay potential blood donor is infected, but that he might be, and while a guy who's never even considered a relationship with another guy but has still managed to pick up every STI going will see his blood get as far as the testing lab, a gay man who has picked up nothing at all gets turned away at the door. And this comes at a time when so many dontations are needed!

But frankly, even if that were not the case, the status quo is so flawed, so completely and utterly ridiculous, that it should be scrapped.

And while it's still in place, can I suggest that the SNBTS ditch their cosy little line about "lifestyle", and change their line about how many donations they require to, "1,000 donations needed, but no poofters, please!"

That's no less homophobic but it's a lot more honest.

1 comment:

Bill said...

Like you I am appalled by the blanket ban on blood donations from people with certain 'lifestyles' (i.e. 'gays') whilst permitting donations from heteros without too many questions being asked. Frankly I'd be more worried about donations from people with a long-term addiction to beef-burgers; I understand there are better tests for HIV than for CJD.

I haven't blogged about this so far, call it simple fatigue with the same old prejudices being dressed up as science, but I might simply do a brief post referring people to what you write; it says more or less everything I might have written mmyself.